Author Archives: Sandra Korn

Live from the Lilith Blog

November 14, 2017 by

Why the President of the Jewish Studies Association Opposes the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act

university-2540603_1920The House of Representatives is currently considering the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which would require the Department of Education’s Office of Civil rights to use a definition of anti-Semitism that includes demonizing, delegitimizing, and applying a double standard to Israel.

On Tuesday, November 9, the House of Representatives’ Judiciary committee held a hearing to discuss incorporating this language into the definition of anti-Semitism. Pamela Nadell, the president of the Jewish Studies Association, was among those who testified.

Sandra Korn caught up with Nadell over the phone on Sunday, after the hearings. 

Sandra Korn: You testified last week at the House Judiciary Committee against the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, with members of the Anti-Defamation League and Christians United for Israel speaking in favor of the bill. Can you talk a little bit about that experience?

Pamela Nadell: I consider it an important service to our nation that I had the chance to share my impressions about what is really a debate about whether Congress should pass a law establishing a definition of anti-Semitism that has a very real potential to restrict free speech on college campus.

I am a very proud Zionist. I am not anti-Israel. But I do respect the right of my students to express positions critical of Israel. Many of the people in the room from established Jewish organizations thought that this law could draw a line in the sand between criticism of the Israeli government and its policies, which would not be defined as anti-Semitic, and language criticizing Israel that crosses the line into anti-Semitism. I’m not certain the Act can do that.

I’m the president for the Association for Jewish Studies. We have very diverse members, and we avoid taking stances that fall outside our mission of teaching and research. But I am grateful to the many members of our organization—faculty teaching around the country who encouraged me to testify and who were very supportive after I spoke. I’m very gratified. While there were only two faculty among the witnesses, I know there are other faculty around the country and in Israel, who support me.

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Live from the Lilith Blog

August 30, 2017 by

What’s a Jewish Ritual Doing at a Confederate Monument?

Photo credit: Martin Kraft

Photo credit: Martin Kraft

Where might it be appropriate, in this day and age, to say a prayer for the destruction of idols? For Abby Weaver, a student at Smith College who grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the best site for this prayer is the student sit-in in front of UNC Chapel Hill’s “Silent Sam”—a confederate monument.

Undergraduates at UNC are holding vigil at Sam’s feet—sleeping out on air mattresses, talking to passersby during the day and drunk students at night, and occasionally confronting white nationalist counter-protestors. Weaver, along with a group of others from the local Jewish community, led Shabbat services at the site of this protest.

Silent Sam was erected in 1913 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy as a monument to UNC students who served as confederate soldiers in the Civil War—and as a warning to Black North Carolinians, in the Jim Crow South, that UNC was still an institution of white supremacy. At the monument’s dedication, Julian Carr proudly told a story of anti-Black violence: “100 yards from where we stand, less than 90 days perhaps after my return from Appomattox, I horse-whipped a Negro wench, until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady.” For decades, Silent Sam has stood at the heart of UNC’s campus as a monument to racial oppression:  in fact, Alice Sparberg Alexiou, writing in Lilith last year, remembers how Silent Sam inflected her mother’s experience of anti-Semitism at UNC in the 1940s. For decades, Black students have organized to demand the statue’s removal.

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Live from the Lilith Blog

May 1, 2017 by

Why May Day Should Be a Jewish Holiday

"ABOLISH CH[ILD] SLAVERY!!" in English and Yiddish ("Nider mit Kinder Schklawerii"), probably taken during May 1, 1909 labor parade in New York City. George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).

“ABOLISH CH[ILD] SLAVERY!!” in English and Yiddish (“Nider mit Kinder Schklawerii”), probably taken during May 1, 1909 labor parade in New York City. George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

It is truly the season for Jewish holidays: in the weeks following Passover, Jewish communities across the world have commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day and many are preparing to observe Yom Hazikaron (a memorial day for fallen Israeli soldiers) and Yom Ha’atzma’ut (a celebration of Israeli independence). I propose one more spring holiday with an important Jewish history to add to the mix: let’s commemorate the important role Jews, especially Jewish women, have played in the history of the labor movement by celebrating International Workers’ Day on May 1st.

May Day has become a worldwide holiday celebrating workers’ victories and demanding protections for workers and immigrants. Dozens of countries observe May 1st as Labor Day, and despite its roots as a European pagan holiday, May Day’s recent history is deeply entwined with the history of Jewish immigrants in the US.

On May 1, 1886, communists, socialists, anarchists, and union members joined together across the US in a general strike demanding an 8-hour workday. An estimated 300,000 people took to the streets across the country, including 40,000 in Chicago. Many of the strikers were Jewish immigrants, who worked in sweatshop conditions at textile factories around the country. Protests continued for days, and while Chicago employers called in scab workers to break the strike, Chicago police opened fire on protesters.

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